Design Throws Home Theater a Curve

Homeowners manage to create an ultimate theater in a room with no straight walls.

Acoustic Design & Installation
Acoustic Smart
Merrick, N.Y.

System Design & Installation
Audio Interiors
Hauppauge, N.Y.

Interior Designer
Julie Hillman Design
New York, N.Y.

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While we’ve seen a lot of extreme home theaters, most fall into a few standard designs. Every home theater is unique, but few are as unique and elegant as the room that Acoustic Smart and Audio Interiors created for this Sagaponack, N.Y., home.

Richard Charschan of Acoustic Smart, Merrick, N.Y., was involved from the start—he had to be, because this room was a test even before the first scoop of dirt was lifted for the basement. He was introduced by the A/V integration firm Audio Interiors, Hauppauge, N.Y., to the prominent New York interior designer Julie Hillman of Julie Hillman Designs. “She told us the concept and we knew it would be an acoustic challenge, but that’s our job,” says Charschan.

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What made this home theater project such a challenge is that there were to be no straight lines in the entire room. The only flat surface would be the floor. Curved walls and a curved ceiling could be an acoustic nightmare. They would also make a visual statement.

The inspiration for the room all started with a curved sofa, which would be incorporated instead of traditional motorized theater seats. In fact, the theater received two sofas, each placed on separate tiers, that stretch the width of the room. These weren’t ordinary sofas, either. They had to be custom built in the room: first the seat panels and then the upholstery. “It was all very unorthodox,” says Charschan.

Like the sofa, the theater’s 155-inch Vutec screen is curved and oversized for the roughly 530-square-foot room. Together, the sofa and screen create a totally immersive experience for the viewer. The owner wanted the screen to totally fill up the field of view. “It’s an IMAX-type vibe,” says Charschan.

To light up that large screen, a SIM2 Lumis 3D SOLO 3-chip DLP projector, which produces 4,000 lumens of light, was installed in an adjacent room. A projector this bright generates a bit of noise, so hanging it in the room was not an option. A long-throw lens was used to help the projector illuminate the screen.

A Star Is Born
Acoustic Smart was one of the first companies to install star ceilings in theaters, and this offering remains one of the company’s specialties. “Years ago we were trained by Disney,” says company president Richard Charschan. While a lot of installers use pre fabricated star panels with small LED lights for the stars, Acoustic Smart does it the old-fashioned way, with fiber optics and a twinkle wheel—to give the stars a more realistic appearance. Acoustic Smart also uses fiber optics of varying diameters to make the stars different sizes. Charschan says this adds depth to the illusion. Using sky maps, the company will customize the arrangement of the stars to reflect special dates or locations. In this theater, the owner can use a Crestron controller to adjust the speed and frequency of the shooting stars.

Building an acoustically sound, curved wall is harder than one might imagine. Most high-performance theaters actually have false walls in which the acoustically transparent fabric covers a mix of sound absorbers, diffusers and reflectors, as well as wall-recessed speakers. The trouble with curves is that it’s almost impossible to stretch fabric in a convex curve without it bunching up and looking awkward. Acoustic Smart worked with its fabric track designer to create a custom-curved track on which to affix the fabric. All of the acoustic substrate panels also had to be specially designed, because standard flat panels wouldn’t fit. “I was really sweating this, but it came out perfectly,” says Charschan.

Speaker placement in a curved room also takes extra care because the seating rows aren’t straight. A surround speaker ideally placed for a person on one end of the sofa will be totally wrong for the person sitting in the middle because they’re different distances from the screen. Careful acoustical analysis and calibration was needed to make the audio sound perfect for every guest.

Bowers & Wilkins and Classé were selected for the room’s audio. The surround speakers are B&W CWM73 3-way in-wall speakers in backboxes, while the front left, center and right speakers are B&W CT8.2s, all driven by Classé amps. Four B&W CTSW15 15-inch subwoofers provide the bass.

Like the walls, the ceiling also presented a challenge. Acoustic Smart is known for its ability to create detailed star ceilings, but this time the curve of the ceiling required a similar treatment to that of the walls. All of the acoustical panels were custom made. A special LED system also had to be ordered for the color-changing lights that would rim the room.

After the effect of the liquid shape and the comfy sofa settles in, it’s pure A/V bliss, as there’s nothing else to cause distraction. Many home theaters include movie posters, decorative columns or sconces. This room was designed for watching the screen and nothing else. Even a small snack and drink area is obscured in a small alcove. The room is meant to be a retreat from the world.

Along those lines, it was also important to keep everything that happens in the theater from leaking out to the rest of the home. The entire room is acoustically decoupled with isolation clips so the walls and ceiling are not attached to the studs. The room is essentially floating, which keeps the people upstairs happy, too.

More home theater and entertainment articles:
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10 Tips to Make a Family Room Look Like a Theater
7 Most Important Features in a Media Manager for Music and Movies
9 Overlooked Home Theater Features

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